With Charles de Foucauld canonised by Pope Francis last month, I want to continue to celebrate him – Charles de Foucauld is one of my inspirations. I once preached through Holy Week, using Charles de Foucauld as a lens. Here, from that week, (having already put my Palm Sunday, my Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday sermon online) is my Easter Vigil sermon:
Alleluia Christ is risen…
When Jesus rose from the dead, many Jews would not have been surprised. That was what they expected to happen at the end of time – the dead would start to rise. Jesus was obviously the first to rise from the dead at the end of time. But where are the others?
We are the others. In baptism we rise with Christ. We share Christ’s risen life. We are now risen.
Alleluia We are risen – we are risen indeed Alleluia!
Some might say – it doesn’t seem any different. They expect resurrection life to be about unusual experiences. They have been sold short. Spirituality, religion, mysticism, prayer, resurrection life isn’t about the strange or weird or unusual – a small percentage of life. It is about the normal, the ordinary, the every day – the whole of life. Buddhists say: before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water – after enlightenment, chop wood. carry water.
I too was surprised after travelling for more than three months through the Sahara – here South of the Sahara life was much like North of the Sahara. After the incredible heat, the barren wastes, the sand, the rocks – here were people and cities much like before. With taps and roads and cars and TVs and jobs and shops. But I could see them differently. I had changed through the Sahara.
We have been through the desert together. We have been through the cross. Now open your eyes and see your ordinary, every day life in a new way.
Because you are risen – you are risen indeed Alleluia!
Thomas Merton was transformed when he saw the world in a new way. He wrote in his journal: “In Louisville, on the comer of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I was theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. I have the immense joy of being human, a member of the race in which God himself became incarnate. The sorrows and stupidities of the human condition can no longer overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. If only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”
You are all walking around – shining like the sun. Open your eyes. You are risen indeed.
Don’t look for unusual experiences – for visions or angel voices – just live your ordinary life at extraordinary depth. Thomas Merton had his revelation on his way to the dentist. To the dentist – can you believe it!
On the corner where Merton had his revelation there is a notice – possibly the only public notice to a religious epiphany in the United States. I read of someone who went to pray by this corner – to reflect on Merton’s vision. A beggar approached this person trying to get some money from him. What awful timing, this man thought. What an inappropriate intrusion into my own private moment. And then it hit him – how far he was from Merton’s viewpoint: All people are walking around – shining like the Sun. The beggar too. Any spirituality that carries us away from the world, from reality is not Christian. This is the resurrection life. We are risen indeed.
Resurrection life is not just about forgiveness. It’s not even just about a relationship with God as a creature. It’s not like the relationship that a pet cat or dog might have with its master – full of affection and devotion as this is. No – the life we are being offered here today – this Resurrection life – is like the cat or dog relating to the master at the master’s level. God is giving us the power to be his sons and his daughters!
Through Baptism, through Easter, everything Jesus was we now are. He by nature – we by grace – by gift. We are caught up in the life and love of the Trinity. God’s inner life, God’s inner unity, God’s love, is what I am given, is what you are given. We share in the fullness of Christ’s risen life.
Alleluia Christ is risen!